Memories of bliss times on the water slowly recede, while the tide brings back the daily routine of land-bound life. Let my heart not sink but stay buoyant, by recalling the vivid impressions of heightened senses, absence of commitments, and communion with nature.
500 miles, 34 anchorages, 12 islands, 7 hikes, 1 night navigation, 1 lost dinghy, and countless encounters with marine life, and human beings in an exquisite summer cruise along the Hauraki Gulf and Northland, celebrated in images, haikus and prose.
24 December: Owhanake Bay, Waiheke Island
Christmas feast with friends missing
Morning skateboard stunts
25 December: Carey Bay, Waiheke Island
Three whanau tahi
Frolicking in sea and sand.
Best holiday vibes!
26 December: Port Jackson, Coromandel
Obelix and crew
Claiming the long sandy beach
Until the wind rose.
26 December: Colville channel
After the morning stillness which, determined to get to Great Barrier that day we had to disturb by the thrum of our engine, the breeze, although on the forecast, has taken us by surprise. Despite white caps proliferating on the water, our hair floating horizontally, and the impossibility to hear each other because of the whirling wind, we maintain our composure getting the dinghy back on deck to get away as soon as we can, taking two reefs in the main and opting for the stay sail. No sooner are we venturing in the open sea, that we hear the VHF calling ‘Obelix, Obelix, Obelix for Cirrus, we can see you!” What a pleasant surprise, and a relief. Someone knows we’re here, and the boat we distinguish in the distance, the only one, is sailed by friends and not pirates! I still look back regularly to make sure we take the untamed waves – that come crashing from behind – in a decent angle and don’t send the boat flip-flopping too much, but I’m afraid I miss a few times, and everything inside the cabin that can fall does so with a loud bang. No rest for my adrenal glands though, as if the wild waves were not enough, I soon find myself exclaiming “A whale!”, quickly followed by “Shit, a whale, what should I do?”. Which inspired the following haiku:
Smooth whale back bobs up
ahead. Swiftly bearing away.
No time to grab the camera, the boys just manage to pop their head in the cockpit to glimpse the shadow of the massive marine mammal swimming away on starboard. The rest of the trip is spent eyes glued to the tablet to monitor our speed which peaks above 9 knots at times, when I manage to get Obelix surfing the waves. An exhilarating feeling but tiring nonetheless. So much so that when we arrive in Whangaparapara, I formally request a break to flush the adrenaline from my system.
26 December: Whangaparapara, Great Barrier
No track, only tombs.
Winds can’t you give us a break
We deserve a rest.
27 December: Smokehouse Bay, Great Barrier Island
Some things don’t change and just deliver on their promise, year after year. This is the case of Smokehouse Bay which Zephyr has been eagerly waiting for. We even manage to sneak in and secure the best anchorage, a stone’s throw from the beach.
Ochre, teal promise
Pizza, shower, swing, shop and mates,
A view, two, or three,
Take my mind and breathe away.
New Year’s Eve in Smokehouse Bay
Of the past year’s favourite bit,
Friends dancing on deck.
French new year’s greetings
After a short night sleeping,
Splash, pancakes, sails up.
1 January: Miners Bay, Great Barrier Island
Bay, fine for spearfishing and
new year’s beach clean-up.
2 January: Burgess Island, Mokohinaus
Boil-ups and pebbles,
Lighthouse keepers worst nightmare,
Remote, grand and bare.
2 January: Smugglers Bay, Whangarei Heads
Anchored in the dark
Awesome morning paradise,
Crystal clear water.
Look in the water
Once. And soon you’ll become a
3 January: Parua Bay, Whangarei
Maddening sand banks
Navigating up river,
Pfew! Pub for dinner.
4 January: Ngunguru, Northland
Surfing dream inlet,
Rolling all night, right and left,
Most popular beach.
5 January: Tutukaka harbour, Northland
6 January: Poor Knights, Tutukaka
Myriad fish nibbling my hands
Black echoing cave
6 January: Mimiwhangata, Northland
Morning skinny dip
Harvest of tuatuas,
7 January: Whangaruru, Northland
Grey misty morning,
Crepes and back to the future,
Not dwelling longer.
8 January: Whangamumu, Northland
Old whaling station,
Waterfall hike, bronze whaler,
Grilled fish for supper.
9 January: Okahu Passage, Bay of Islands
We are so thrilled by the beauty of the scenery when we arrive in Okahu Passage that we immediately call our respective mums to share our delight, and show them the idyllic sandy beach which we have almost to ourselves, the crystal clear water, the glittering sun, the fish and stingrays that swim around the boat, and the boys getting dressed for yet another snorkeling session. We have left Whangamumu at dawn, as per usual before a long navigation, so that we can have a few hours of peace before the boys wake up, enjoy the sunrise a cup of tea warming our hands, and arrive early-ish to our next destination. It is just about breakfast time and we’ve already filled our stomachs with cake. Ready to jump in. A morning routine to be repeated ad lib.
Crystal clear water
I even see our anchor,
Puffer fish, stingrays.
9 January: Russell, Bay of Islands
What a welcoming committee when we arrive in Russell: We anchor next to Calypso, right before the start of the Tall Ship regatta, and just in time to have lunch with our friends Julia & Eric who are leaving Bay of Islands that day. And to top it off, we gather for dinner around a gigantic maori hāngi followed by a ball with live music, with hundreds of yachties, among whom we have the pleasure to count many friends, Bayswater school parents, ex-colleagues, ex-fellow Bulgarian choir singers, or people who helped us renovate Obelix back in Whangarei. Blessed serendipity. Highlights of that evening feature Zephyr standing up on Thomas shoulders, hands dyed purple, as he is picking mulberries from a tall tree, eating many in the process, distributing some to intrigued or skeptical people who are not sure they’re edible, and keeping the rest for the pavlova we’ve promised to have for dessert the next day, as a celebration of our arrival in Bay Of Islands.
10 January: Omakiwi Bay, Bay of Islands
Retreating at night
To a much quieter bay,
11 January: Okahu Passage, Bay of Islands
What these three black dots at the surface of the water on the last picture? Thomas supervising the kids having a go at Dan’s “hubble-bubble”, a.k.a Hookah Diving System, which allows them to breath underwater without tanks. They loved it!
Back in paradise,
Diving, sunbathing, shooting
A glorious sunset.